The Main Minerals in the Human Body
Minerals are essential nutritive components for the health of the body. Minerals have many roles in the activity of various body systems, such as the bones, muscles, heart and brain, and they are vital to the ongoing functioning of the body's hormones and enzymes.
Minerals can be divided into two main groups: macro minerals and micro minerals, also known as trace minerals. The difference between these two groups is in the amount the body needs. Macro minerals, such as calcium, phosphate and magnesium, are required by the body in large amounts. On the other hand, micro minerals such as iron, manganese, zinc and fluorine, are only needed in much smaller amounts.
Most people manage to get all the minerals they need from a rich, varied diet. When the diet doesn't provide the range of minerals the body requires, due to lifestyle choices, such as vegetarianism and veganism, or following an illness, there is a risk that food alone is not the answer. In extreme cases, such as when the diet is deficient in certain minerals, or if the diet provides excess amounts of certain minerals, the body is at risk of harm. It is important to become familiar with the daily mineral intake necessary for proper health, which can be found in RDA (recommended daily allowance) tables. In addition, it is important to know that there are a number of situations where medical intervention is necessary, either by prescribing a nutritional supplement or giving advice about reducing intake of certain minerals in your diet.
Here is a brief overview of the body's key minerals, including their functions and dietary sources:
Calcium is a macro mineral found in the highest quantities in the body. Of course, it plays a key role in the development of bone structure, but calcium has many other functions, such as blood coagulation, platelet adhesion, hormone secretion, nerve-muscle functioning, and also in the contraction of the heart, blood vessels and muscles.
It is interesting to note that 99% of calcium in the body is found in the bones and teeth, and the rest in the blood, muscles and intercellular fluid.
The body needs a high amount of calcium, with the recommended daily amount being 1000-1200 milligrams, depending on age and sex.
Dietary sources of calcium: Dairy products, such as milk, cheese and yogurt. Vegetables, mainly leafy greens, fish with soft edible bones, such as sardines, and today there are a variety of processed foods available that have been fortified with calcium, such as breakfast cereals and fruit juices.
Phosphorous is a macro mineral that constitutes 1% of body weight, and therefore is the second-most common mineral in the body.
Phosphorous is found in all cells of the body, and mainly in the bones and teeth, where it does most of its work. Phosphorous has other functions, such as in the body's utilization of carbohydrates and fats, and in the production of protein for growth, and for cell and tissue repair. Phosphorous helps the body to produce and store energy. In addition, phosphorous works together with B vitamins for the functioning of the kidneys, nervous system, and muscle contraction.
The recommended daily intake of phosphorous for adults is 700 milligrams, whereas young people require higher amounts.
Dietary sources of phosphorous: Found mainly in animal protein, such as meat and milk. Phosphorous also occurs in whole-wheat products, such as whole-wheat bread, however it is much less accessible to the body in this form. It appears that a varied diet that includes enough protein and calcium will naturally provide the necessary amount of phosphorous.
Sodium is a mineral that has mostly negative health connotations. But sodium is a macro mineral with a very important role in the functioning of the body. Sodium is one of the salts that helps the functioning of the nervous system, the muscles, and also helps maintain the body's fluid balance, as the kidneys control the amount of sodium that is excreted or stored in the body. One of the health problems associated with sodium is high blood pressure, which is caused by excess sodium. This occurs when the kidneys do not excrete excess sodium in urine, for a number of different reasons.
Dietary sources of sodium: Studies conducted in the US found that sodium consumption among the general population is higher than the recommended daily allowance. Therefore, it is necessary to reduce sodium intake to 2.3 grams a day, which is one teaspoon of table salt. Some people are more sensitive to salt, such as those with high blood pressure, diabetes or kidney disease, and they should consume an even smaller daily amount of sodium.
Magnesium is an essential macro mineral, necessary for over 300 different biochemical reactions in the body. An adult body has 35 grams of magnesium, 60% of which is found in the bones, and less than 1% in the blood. Magnesium helps to maintain normal nervous system reactions, protein production, muscle functioning, supports the functioning of the immune system, and maintains normal heart rhythm, among many other activities. There are a number of new studies underway about the involvement of magnesium in blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes, while taking a dietary supplement of magnesium will not necessarily help maintain health or treat these diseases.
Even with a diet rich in protein, calcium and vitamin D, it is still necessary to increase magnesium intake.
The recommended daily intake of magnesium for adults is 310-420 milligrams, depending on age and sex.
Dietary sources of magnesium: Studies conducted in Europe and the US found that magnesium consumption is generally less than the recommended intake, due to the Western diet which is overall low in magnesium.
The main sources of magnesium are green leaves, such as spinach and lettuce, fruits and vegetables, such as banana and avocado, nuts such as cashew and almond, soya products, whole grains and milk. Today you can also find many foods that have been fortified with magnesium, such as breakfast cereals. It is important to note that you can also get magnesium from drinking water, which makes up approximately 10% of daily intake.
Potassium is a macro mineral that functions as an electrolyte (salt) to transport electrical charge dissolved in body fluid, such as blood. Most potassium in the body is found in the cells, where its main job is to transport nutrients inside the cell, and transport waste outside the cell, as well as supporting nerve functioning and muscle activity. It is especially important to maintain a steady potassium level in the blood, to ensure that body systems are stable. Changes in potassium levels can cause unwanted effects, such as altered heart rhythm.
The recommended daily intake of potassium for adults is 4.7 grams.
Dietary sources of potassium: Green leaves, such as spinach and cabbage, fruits that grow on the vine, such as grapes and blueberries, root vegetables, such as potatoes, and citrus fruits.
Iron is an important micro mineral for many functions. Iron is part of hemoglobin, found in red blood cells that transfer oxygen from the lungs to every part of the body. In addition, iron helps the muscles to store and use oxygen, and the mineral is important for the functioning of the immune system, production of DNA, and as a part of the body's proteins and their enzymatic actions.
The body in general and the brain specifically need a certain amount of iron for normal functioning. Blood loss, insufficient nourishment, or compromised iron absorption can cause anemia (iron deficiency), which is the most common nutrient deficiency in the world.
The recommended daily intake of iron for adults is 8-18 milligrams a day, depending on age and sex.
Dietary sources of iron: Foods contain two types of iron: 1. Heme iron, which comes from meat sources, and is best absorbed by the body. 2. Nonheme iron, such as green leafy vegetables, legumes and most dietary supplements. Iron absorption from these sources is lower. Adding vitamin C-rich food, such as fresh fruit, to your iron intake can help enhance absorption. Today there are many processed foods fortified with iron, such as bread and breakfast cereals.
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